Discreet Music  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Discreet Music (1975) is an album by the British ambient musician Brian Eno. While No Pussyfooting may be his first ambient album and Another Green World features many ambient pieces, this is Brian Eno’s first purely ambient solo album. It is also the first "Brian Eno" album, as opposed to his previous rock albums released under the name "Eno".

Brian Eno’s concept of ambient music builds upon a concept composer Erik Satie called "furniture music". This means music that is intended to blend into the ambient atmosphere of the room rather than directly focused upon.

The inspiration for this album began when Eno was left bed-ridden by an accident and was given an album of eighteenth century harp music. After struggling to put the record on the turntable and returning to bed, he realized that it was turned down toward the threshold of inaudibility and he lacked the strength to turn it up. Eno said this experience taught him a new way to perceive music.

This album is also an experiment in algorithmic, generative composition. His intention was to explore multiple ways to create music with limited planning or intervention.

The a-side of the album is a thirty minute piece titled "Discreet Music". It was originally intended as a background for Robert Fripp to play against in a series of concerts.

The liner notes contain a diagram of how this piece was created. It begins with two melodic phrases of different lengths played back from a synthesizer's digital recall system. This signal is then run through a graphic equalizer to occasionally change its timbre. It is then run through an echo unit before being recorded onto a tape machine. The tape runs to the take-up reel of a second machine. The output of that machine is fed back into the first tape machine which records the overlapped signals.

The second half of the album is three pieces collectively titled "Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel". These pieces were performed by The Cockpit Ensemble, conducted and co-arranged by Gavin Bryars. The members of the ensemble were each given brief excerpts from the score, which were repeated several times, along with instructions to gradually alter the tempo and other elements of the composition. The titles of these pieces were derived from inaccurate French-to-English translations of the liner notes of a version Pachelbel’s Canon performed by the orchestra of Jean Francois Pillard.

In "Fullness of Wind" the tempo decreases relative to the pitch of the instrument. The violins have the fastest rate of decay while the basses have the slowest. This piece features effects and processing by Brian Eno.

In "French Catalogues" notes and melodies of similar tempos are gathered into blocks from different parts of the score.

In "Brutal Ardour" each performer plays a sequence of notes of a different duration, so the original composition eventually breaks down into chaos.

This album was also released on the Virgin label. On this reissue, a full minute of silence separates "Discreet Music's" title track from the Pachelbel piece.

A brief excerpt of "Discreet Music" was featured on Fripp & Eno’s Evening Star, which was released before this album.

Track listing

  1. "Discreet Music" – 30:35
    Three Variations on the Canon in D Major by Johann Pachelbel
  2. "Fullness of Wind" – 9:57
  3. "French Catalogues" – 5:18
  4. "Brutal Ardour" – 8:17

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Discreet Music" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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